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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Health fears as waistlines expand
Obese people
The levels of abdominal obesity have increased
More than 1.2 million people in Scotland are "abdominally obese" creating a heightened risk of health problems, according to a new study.

The research found almost a third of those living in Scotland were at risk of developing heart disease or diabetes because of their expanding waistlines.

Medical experts found abdominal obesity levels had soared in recent years.

More than one in three women and a quarter of men now have waists bigger than the recommended span.

Traditionally, doctors have judged obesity based on the body mass index, which is based on weight in relation to height.

This new analysis confirms obesity is a major public health problem in Scotland and is getting worse
Naveed Sattar
University of Glasgow

Experts increasingly believe that where you store excess fat may be crucial, with studies suggesting that people with extra fat around the abdomen are more at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

A woman with a waist above 35in and a man whose waist is more than 40in are classified as "abdominally obese".

In 1995, 19.4% of women and 14.4% of men had waists above this threshold, according to figures in a report by Harry Burns, Scotland's chief medical officer.

By 2003 this had risen to 34.3% of women and 25.3% of men.

'Action needed'

This adds up to 1,219,200 people, according to calculations by pharmaceutical company Sanofi Aventis, which carried out the latest analysis.

There have now been calls for urgent action to tackle the problem.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: "This new analysis confirms obesity is a major public health problem in Scotland and is getting worse.

"We know that fat around the abdomen is particularly dangerous so we urgently need to address these rising trends.

"If we fail to take action, we will see a massive surge in cases of diabetes and other important conditions.

"We therefore have to find ways to prevent and effectively treat obesity to prevent it becoming an even greater burden on the NHS."

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